Money buys happiness, except maybe in Spain

The five happiest countries in the world have two things in common: their all pretty far north in Europe, and money generally isn’t a problem. Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands top the latest list of the world’s happiest nations, due in large part, it seems, to the fact that basic needs are covered by sufficient incomes. Spain, on the other hand, ranked seventeenth of 21 European countries … it must be the relaxed lifestyle.

Gallup, which conducted the study, found that money is good for a certain kind of bliss:

“Money is an object that many or most people desire and pursue during the majority of their waking hours,” researchers wrote in the report. “It would be surprising if success at this pursuit had no influence whatsoever when people were asked to evaluate their lives.”

Denmark boasted a per-capital GDP of $36,000 last year, putting it ahead of 196 of the 227 countries for which the CIA collects data (don’t go down the conspiracy road – it’s for the agency’s “World Factbook”).

Now, monetary satisfaction only addresses how happy people are about future prospects. When it comes to day-to-day smiles, having basic social needs is much more important, which is why Gallup found that Costa Rica finished sixth:

“Costa Rica ranks really high on social and psychological prosperity,” says [Jim] Harter [chief scientist at Gallup]. “It’s probably things systemic to the society that make people over time develop better relationships, and put more value on relationships. Daily positive feelings rank really high there.”

So, there are two keys to happiness: being rich and being loved. How do you measure up?

[photo by dotbenjamin via Flickr]